Soddy Daisy, TN
Every hand that helped make it what it was-a success.
Cover photo: 2007 aerial photo of the heart of
No part of this material may be used unless written permission is granted.
Rexford C. Alexander
THE EVOLUTION OF
Soddy Daisy, TN
Research of the land has revealed the following.
1. GOD ..He created it
Chickasaw, Creek, and Cherokee Indian Nations
3. 1795..Stockley Donelson received land grants of more than 151,000 acres (23 square miles) from North Carolina although it still legally belonged to the Cherokees. Source: History of Hamilton County
1809..Major James Cozby, Revolutionary War Veteran,
purchased the land.
It was then Rhea County.
Hamilton County (from Rhea County) included all land below the
former Cherokee Territory line (south of Rhea County) to the Tennessee-Georgia
state line. The Cherokee Indians had been bought out, cheated, or driven out.
6. 1834.. Heirs of James Cozby received title to the land after litigation due to a dispute over ownership. The other party is unknown but it is surmised that it was due to two countries giving grants to the same parcel to two individuals.
7. No records exist of any sales until the 20th century.
1919.. Grover C. Eldridge acquired the
land; no records exist pertaining to the type of acquisition. The actual acreage
of the immediate farm at the home site is unknown and he acquired much more. The
total acreage accumulated by Eldridge after initial ownership was no less than
800. During his ownership, it was named "
1945..George W. Bagwell and
William Fine purchased the "
Note: Bowater's Land Company obtained the "missing" parcels by paying property taxes for seven years then filing a Quit-Claim Deed. No one challenged the action prior to the end of the seven year period-it became their property. This practice is perfectly legal.
11. June 1964.. Mitchell Wright purchased a small triangle of land (approximately ¼ acre) located at the eastern corner of Billingsley Road and southward of Lee Pike intersection from William Hillery for $500.00
A. 1978.. Jimmy and Mary Gill purchased 4 + acres from the Alexander's. Their postal address was 1706 Billingsley Road, Soddy Daisy, TN
1984-85.. Mark & Lois Crandall purchased
a strip of property from a parcel being deeded to Rexford & Carol Alexander. The
area, totaling 1/10 of an acre, provided access from other property belonging to
them to the 110 acres
15. September 10, 1997. Rexford C. & Carol P. Alexander received the deed from Mark D. & Roselyn G. Alexander for 4 acres+ after paying the agreed upon price of 1978. The postal address was 1730 Billingsley Road, Soddy Daisy, TN 37379-8202
April, 1999... Rexford C. Alexander was
designated as beneficiary of
17. 2004..Mark Alexander traded Rexford C. Alexander property he owned on Pendall Road to relinquish 1708 Billingsley Road and deed it to Mark's grandson, Rex Matthew Alexander.
March 2009..Rex Matthew Alexander sold
September 2009: Rexford C. Alexander of
the vast history of "
RESEARCHED FACTS OF THE FARM
The property was created by God as part of the great North American Continent. The first inhabitants were wild beasts and birds. Indians of numerous tribes roamed the area until the 1700's when streams of immigrants arrived and pushed westward and southwards. Greed and total disregard of the Indians drove white men farther and farther into wilderness. Some were killed by the Indians; many of them killed Indians in defense or for pleasure.
In the late 1700's,
Major James Cozby, a Revolutionary War figure,
gained the property in 1809. Possibly it was through a
The farm, as we know it, is roughly two miles
due west of the
Time has erased the identities of the first white settlers who actually inhabited the farm; we do know that a log cabin rested on the site where Grover Eldridge made his home. This cabin was probably erected in the last half of the 1800's.
US Census's of 1910 have no Eldridge's living in
The central farm rested in the "Ridges" near the
predominately black settlement whose ancestors had been slaves. "Goodspeed's
History of Tennessee" notes that after the Civil War, a former Hamilton
County slave owner provided a place for them; he also gave them a church and
cemetery. They and their descendants did what they knew-they farmed; they raised
what they ate-crops and animals. They created their own little community; some
recognizable names are: Major Swafford, Robinson, Roberson, Claude Martin,
They became a vital part of Eldridge's farming operation; they needed income and he was the key to it. Those who knew him shared no fondness; it has been said his integrity was questionable. I cannot cite specifics but his boss/worker relationship made him the winner; cheap labor made him rich. His overbearing behavior and language was remembered for many years.
Grover's farms incorporated so many different crops that he steadily employed workers within the entire Bakewell/Sale Creek area in the 20's, 30's, and 40's. During the summer of 1944, he employed an average of 28 men during May through September and 16 men during the other months. With that labor force working 8-12 hours per day for .30 cents an hour, Grover built the farm into a thriving enterprise. During the Great Depression, the Eldridge Farm was about the only place work was available.
Old receipts revealed he purchased and planted large quantities of corn, cow peas, beans, Irish and sweet potatoes, strawberries, and more. He used large amounts fertilizer, and insecticide spray; with so many farm animals he used tons of corn, oats, and hay. Harness's, iron horse and mule shoes (some padded), as well as a lot of flat and round iron of different sizes were necessary for the blacksmith.
Grover married a
After my military career, I worked for the
I have always been intrigued by the fact that in
the 1930's a little white boy, who may or may not have seen color as an issue,
was friends with a black boy who was a descendant of slaves. But-the white boy's
mother was a biased woman! She, in the status of a school teacher, failed my
father and two of his brothers because their father was a minister of the
A storage building and cellar were constructed near the main house. The cellar kept milk and butter cool; two chicken houses and their
occupant's provided plenty of fresh eggs. Brick masons built a huge commissary near the house; it contained salt cured meat, beans, potatoes, flour, meal, coffee, sugar, and other staple items plus overalls, shirts, and cheap shoes, etc. Workers could purchase the goods at the store price in lieu of being paid in dollars and cents. It was equipped with scales and cash register. In cold weather, a pot-bellied stove was a place to warm hands-briefly.
A huge barn with gambrel roof was constructed for hay storage; the uprights and horizontal beams were/are cedar trees. The hay was cut, dried, and hauled in by team and wagon. The wagon was backed into the mouth of the barn and a large set of hay-hooks on a trolley were pulled over the wagon bed. Ropes were pulled to raise the hooks like giant claws; after the hooks were lowered down to the wagon another rope was
yanked thereby releasing the hooks. They grasped a large load; the hooks were then hoisted upward and pulled on the trolley to the place where the hay was to be dropped-then released.
There were no less than three more barns, a corncrib, a blacksmith shop, grease shed, tool shed, and a large potato house. The barns housed the work mules, work horses, and seeds. Grover always had mules for sale; and horses were used for transportation until cars and trucks became available. He even had railroad cars filled with wild horses from the western states brought in; he would have them broken to cultivating equipment and wagon. They were always for sale-if the profit was large enough. Numerous ponds were dug and utilized for watering the stock.
The smell of sulfur and the ringing of a hammer on hot steel told everyone that the blacksmith shop was active. The "smithy" fabricated clevises, pins, or anything the farm needed; repairs of farm equipment were never-ending. His forge, hammer, tongs, vise, coal, bellows, open air wall, and a lot of steel and iron were indispensable but they were useless unless one knew how to use them.
The potato house was another large block structure; it was built to keep sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes from freezing. The loft/attic and interior walls were sealed with sheetrock to hold the heat in. Two floors were built above a furnace; the floors were not solid but had 1 ¼ "-1 ½ " openings between each slat to allow heat to rise. Potatoes were a hot commodity.
Receipts and annotations reveal that he
purchased a new Ford Touring car with de-mountable rims and a starter. Later he
drove the expensive cars like the "Essex",
"Terraplane." For transporting
freight from the railroad or cattle and horses he purchased a new "Reo"
truck. Willy Higdon was his driver for many years. Modern conveyances such as
cars and trucks necessitated the construction of a "grease rack" which I used
into the 1970's & 80's; it was appropriately located near the grease shed of
old. Why he chose to locate the garage, complete with concrete floor, across the
road from his house (north of
In elevations such as the house site, digging a
well was often fruitless. Water may not be struck for 200 feet and modern
drilling was primitive. So, rainwater was used for man and beast. A
hole about 25 feet deep and 14-16 feet in diameter was dug in the ground-by
mule team then shovel. A concrete floor was poured; a round concrete wall was
then poured and sealed to insure the structure was watertight to ground level.
Pipes were installed at the building gutters to channel the water into pipes
leading to the cistern. A concrete top was poured leaving a square opening in
the center for a windlass or rope and bucket access. Hand pumps were used to
pump cistern water into the home. If you have never tasted cistern water-don't!
There were no less than three (3) small houses on the property; tenants or owners lived in them. They were approximately 26 feet wide by 30 feet long with two entrance doors, 6 windows, and had tongue and groove walls and floors. One is now a storage building belonging to Jimmy and Mary Gill.
The second one was uninhabitable in 1978 and
demolished for the construction of my house at
The third house stood east of the commissary; it was torn down board by board and reconstructed. It became my barn in 1980-and is still standing. The house's sills, studs, rafters, and joists were oak; when my father and I built it back, I had to drill every hole for every nail drove in it. I also learned that carbide-tipped circular saw blades were worth every cent. Sixty year old oak is seasoned-and hard.
Another interesting fact that many locals don't
know is that during World War II, German Prisoner's of War (POW's) were
incarcerated in the
Somehow, Grover gained access to the
also constructed a shed beside the railroad to process the peaces for shipping
by rail. The peaches were hauled to the Sale Creek shed where they were
de-fuzzed, graded, boxed, and loaded into refrigerated cars for large
distribution. The culls, less than Grade A, were sold to buyers from
Peaches were king for only 2-3 years; hard freezes killed the fruit. Peach trees became firewood and the race to become the dominant strawberry king had already begun several years prior. Again, the crop required many workers, not just picking but planting, cultivating, and weeding-all back breaking work. Motorized conveyances were few; feet were the primary mode of transportation. In other words, folks walked to the Eldridge farm to work; it was often the only place to make a few cents per hour-especially during the Great Depression.
During the 1920's-'30's, the local populace
walked 5 miles (one way) to work here. Until the mid-1930's, there were two iron
bridges across Sale Creek. Both were on
Patterson Road; one crossed onto the old
Aslinger place and the other east of
Price Point just south of Brown's Bridge. After construction of the
were kept of all workers; when they picked peaches or strawberries a ticket was
punched to record their earnings. Eldridge paid .01 cent per cup of berries-but,
it was work.
Refrigerated rail cars were the
primary mode of transfer to
Grover Eldridge created a large, thriving, and profitable farm. He
carved success out of pure insight, hope, chance, or luck. Documents I rescued revealed that he got multiple loans of $500.00 for two years from Savings & Loans, Soddy Bank, Graysville Bank, and two individuals from Sale Creek. He must have known how to operate within the system; buy low and sell high as well as "cheap labor" means more profit. Who took the largest gamble-him or the banks? Ironically, the 1929 head cashier of the Soddy Bank, W. H. Crow, gave Grover glowing references; after the stock market crashed later that year the cashier, W. H. Crow, emptied the bank vault and "flew the coop" so to speak.
Whatever Grover's business practices were, he
made a huge profit from his empire (?) and moved to
George W. Bagwell and William Fine purchased the
In June 1964, Hillery sold a small triangle of
land (approximately ¼ acre) located at the eastern corner of
Prior to their purchase, many buildings had not been maintained and were safety hazards or of no use; the grease shed, tool shed, remnants of an old dilapidated barn, a mule barn giving way to age, and leaning outhouses were torn down and burned. Ponds were dug deeper and cleaned; the big barn was also repaired to acceptable standards. A lone, low, wooded area contained two springs and a stand of pine and hardwood trees. Alexander hired a pulp wood company to harvest the pines. New barbed wire fencing was installed around the entire perimeter of his property as well as all cross fences. Wooden gates were replaced with steel pipe gates.
Hamilton Orchards was a treasure trove of trash from yesteryear, in other words-junk. Wagon parts, old mule-drawn cultivators, plows, sprayers, ancient fertilizer, 55 gallon cans, 5 gallon cans (for preserves, etc), and thousands of 1945-55 strawberry crates and cups. The blacksmith shop did yield the old tongs, poker, hammer, and many crude, hand-made items that the "smithy" had fashioned.
Even after 70 years, you could still find bent nails or broken glass in the road or around trees. In 1979, while cutting down a 16" diameter elm tree with a chain saw, the chain suddenly threw showers of sparks and stopped cutting. After installing a new chain and removing the section of the tree, a steel tie rod from an old vehicle was found imbedded near the heart.
After the purchase, the Alexander's began a
registered Angus beef cattle operation; gradually it changed to
After their oldest son retired from the Air Force, they formed the "Rockin' A Ranch." Although not an outwardly high-visibility operation; they did it all- breeding, foaling, and training to the 2-year old stage. One Alexander colt attained the stature of World Grand Champion Stallion Reserve (#2 in the World); two more attained elevated status in the Walking Horse industry. During the last 10 years of their equine venture, they brought in top-bred Spotted Saddle Horses and raised double and triple registered horses.
One highlight of Mark Alexander's horse business
was to donate Ebony's Lookout, a three-year old black stallion with $25,000 of
show ring training, to the Chattanooga Police Department. He was the primary
"Flag" horse for funerals and opening the
For most of those years, Mr. Alexander also found the area to favor the honey industry; he had as many as 30 bee hives. Cold weather and a devastating moth took its toll on his colonies. He spent hours harvesting and processing the sweet nectar-he never made enough to pay for the supplies.
In the late 1960's, a conflict between the
Alexander's and the local
No longer physically able to properly care for
large acreage, on
After paying for the property and house in full,
In April of 1999, Rexford C. Alexander was
designated as executor of
In 2004, Mark Alexander traded Rexford C. Alexander property he owned on Pendall Road to relinquish 1708 Billingsley Road and deed it to Mark's grandson, Rex Matthew Alexander. Reluctantly, he did so. Mark Alexander's health deteriorated in early 2009; he moved into the home of Rex and Carol Alexander. Rex Matthew Alexander sold 1708 Billingsley Road to Mark and Lois Crandall in March 2009; Mark Alexander died June 26, 2009. The Crandall's then sold the property, excluding the commissary, to Lew and Marita Thacher.
Forty-three years after Alexander's first became
Farming, for which the farm was best known, is now a thing of the past. After being cultivated for over half century, it is now utilized for pasture and hay; it has paid its dues. From being part of 151,000 acres, 20,000, 240, 125, to 110 it is worth more now than ever before in terms of dollars.
Its rich history is worth much more than money. All of mankind who labored here, the hundreds of animals who passed by, the German POW's, the owners, and the tenants could tell you many stories of this enterprise. The blisters, sweat, tears, dust, insecticide spray, and wind-swept fragrance of peach blossoms or rotting fruit paints a picture which could only be viewed by those who walked or rode among these rolling hills.
We only have a few documents bearing names of
those who helped make
Grover E. Eldridge
D. July 1980, FL
Son of Jack and Eliza Eldridge
Georgia Rosenburg Eldridge
D. December 1981 FL
Sale Creek (TN) School teacher 1919-1945
Since my parents purchased the farm in 1966, I
toiled thousands of hours on
I hauled and treated hundreds of heads of cattle. I have worked horses until on cold nights, spent 13 nights in the barn awaiting foals, and accomplished veterinarian work by flashlight. I have euthanized sick horses and buried those struck by lightning.
I contributed greatly to this farm through
personal finances, blood, and sweat. I never earned a dime in wages; I worked
harder than wage earners just to help my parents. I was the mechanic, plumber,
carpenter, electrician, driver, veterinarian, and master engineer until physical
disabilities overcame me in 1998. Even after surgery I continued to work there
disregarding my limitations.
I rode 130 miles in a horse trailer on a hot July day to prevent injury to young stallion sired by a world champion horse.